It wasn't as stunning as his halfcourt shot to beat Dayton or as dramatic as his overtime tip-in to take down Charlotte, but Carl Elliott cemented his reputation as a great clutch player when he sank both ends of a one-and-one to give GW the lead and the win over Virginia Tech.
After falling apart in the second half at Providence last week, the Colonials needed to bounce back against a quality opponent, both for their own confidence and to legitimize their 4-1 record. The Hokies carry just a little more strength-of-schedule weight than previous GW victims BU, Dartmouth, Kennesaw State and Longwood.
Trailing 38-29 after a half marked by turnovers and porous defense, GW abandoned its man-to-man and trapping pressure for a 2-3 zone that clogged the passing lanes and frustrated the Hokies. Karl Hobbs also went with freshman guard Travis King over big man Dokun Akingbade in a three-guard lineup for almost the entire second half. The halftime adjustments clicked as GW opened the period with a 16-2 run that featured baskets from all three guards and a five-minute scoring drought for Tech.
GW got great support for Elliott's heroics from King (9 pts), Maureece Rice (11) and Rob Diggs (13 pts, 5-6 FG), but Regis Koundjia stood out, with 10 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Koundjia has tested the patience of Colonials fans since he became eligible nearly a year ago, but yesterday he exploited his considerable athletic ability, driving to the basket, keeping rebounds alive, and getting a quick and disruptive hand on the ball on numerous Hokie possessions, including a missed dunk attempt by Coleman Collins after Elliott's late free throws. His first step is nearly unstoppable and watching him sky and cuff an offensive rebound for a putback drew the appreciation of the Verizon Center crowd.
The Colonials get yet one more light and fluffy treat on Tuesday when UMES visits Smith Center, but another tests looms at 5-1 USC on Saturday. Clemson transfer Cheyenne Moore dressed for yesterday's contest and will be a major addition to the lineup when he is fully recovered from his stress fracture injury. Of course, if the game is on the line, put the ball in Elliott's hands and rest easy.